I find myself for the first time in the weird position of being able to say that Forward to the Sky is probably my favorite of the vaguely anime brawler titles that I’ve played for this feature, which is not a phrase I expected to type more or less ever. Not that I consider that to be high praise, though; it just means that the game manages to deliver its contents more effectively than others.
By the same token, it’s not dismissal, either. Like so many before it, this game was and is a labor of love; the people who made it are self-described fans working to make a game that feels like an anime game, and to their credit they’ve succeeded at that. The downside is that ironic as it sounds, a game all about climbing a tower winds up without a whole lot of verticality. The demo itself feels like a demo for what’s coming next, because it’s a very thin experience; at the same time, it’s a product that clearly wants to be exactly what it is.
So, the good news from the last installment is that the world is coming to an end and the group completely failed to prevent that evil whatsit from emerging from his prison. Which admittedly sounds all like bad news, but conceivably there might be some good news in there somewhere. Yet the game must go on, even though the party is down a member.
This is actually a part of the game I kind of despise, for two reasons. The first is that it’s a foregone conclusion the main party is heading after Galuf, since otherwise the game would consist of sitting around and waiting to die. The second is that it results in your party getting janky amounts of ABP and experience until you’re reunited, which puts everyone at a different place development-wise. When it’s already possible to lose track of your overall trajectory…
Eh, getting ahead of myself. Let’s figure out how we can chase Beardy McBeardpants.
Every time someone starts in on another rant about how terrible cutscenes are in video games, I think of two games. I think of Half-Life 2, and I think of Final Fantasy VI.
When I played Final Fantasy VI, it was early in my career of playing console RPGs, and I would be lying if I claimed it didn’t have a profound effect upon me as a person. Sure, the cutscenes contained therein were not the elaborate CGI sequences that would come in later games, but for the first time in my life I found myself feeling affection for the characters on the screen in ways I hadn’t thought possible. I remember feeling Celes’ pain in a musical sequence speaking of a love that she hadn’t ever experienced, Terra’s fear at being nothing more than a weapon, the slow pan into the town of Narshe for the first time.
I also remember Half-Life 2‘s complete lack of cutscenes, and how they made the game feel at once less interactive and less narratively linked. Sure, I could move Gordon around during the not-technically-cutscenes, but I couldn’t interact with anything. I couldn’t affect change. I was talked at, not to, and in response I was a mute. And it strikes me, not for the first time, that when we talk about these things we’re only really internalizing the worst parts, not the whole thing.
Delivering the Adamantite is no more complicated than just taking a quick jaunt back to the ancient ruins located beneath the conveniently obvious landing pad in the middle of the ocean, which prompts a quick discussion that the resident geniuses are going to install it. I’m not sure how you install metal into a device, as it’s usually just used to make, like, parts which you subsequently install, but since the quest to pick this stuff up didn’t take forever I’m not going to sweat it.
This all certainly feels like we’re getting pretty close to the endgame, but that seems unlikely – we’ve still got one more crystal to theoretically save and most likely completely fail to save, and the party hasn’t even hit level 20 yet. It’s convincingly handled, though, without any of the obvious markers that it can’t possibly be this easy aside from having relentlessly failed to save every single crystal up to this point. But what’s a game without a few setbacks, right?
At any rate, the group goes to sleep, then wakes up to find that the airship is already ready for flight. Onward, to boss fights!